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Chat Leftovers: Crock conversions

Greetings, food folks. If you approach your weekday lunch hour wondering where to pick up some grub, you'll like David Hagedorn's behind-the-scenes look today at three of the cool new food trucks in town and how they operate. Another interesting read: Gastronomer Andreas Viestad's foray into making -- gasp -- margarine. And finally, something to clip and file for when you need it, and you will need it: a new installment of Make It, Freeze It, Take It, in which assistant Food editor Bonnie Benwick presents recipes to make now and serve later.

Wash all that down with a nice helping of today's Free Range chat, and you'll have your food fix for the week. Joining us at noon today will be David Hagedorn, who'll be discussing his story and anything else you might have in mind. So tune in and enjoy. And submit your culinary questions early, so we have time to answer them. Here's one we couldn't get to in an earlier chat:

I have a chicken curry recipe with sweet potatoes and chickpeas that I’d like to make in my slow-cooker instead of simmering on my stove top for an hour and a half. Any tips on what adjustments to make to the recipe? Should I change liquid amounts? Do I pre-saute the chicken? Other suggestions?

A dish that simmers on the stove top for 90 minutes is a great candidate for slow-cooker treatment. It might take you a couple of tries (and even any failures should be at least reasonably edible), but it's certainly doable.

Here are a few things to remember when converting regular recipes to slow-cooker recipes:

Stews, soups and other foods that require long simmering or braising are good bets. So are less-tender cuts of meat, which respond well to this style of cooking.

You won't need to add the full amount of liquid to your recipe, because the slow-cooker lid prevents evaporation. Beth Hensperger, author of the terrific "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook," says in her book that when converting a recipe for the first time, she typically cuts the liquid by half and adds more near the end of cooking if it's needed.

Cut back also on the amount of dried herbs, because their flavor can become more potent during long cooking. Fresh herbs, on the other hand, get tired out, so add those during the final hour. At that point you can also put in more dried herbs if the dish tastes underseasoned.

You don't have to brown meats ahead of time, but browning gives a more appetizing color and probably adds taste.

General rule of thumb: A stew or similar dish that takes 1 hour on the stove will require 6 to 8 hours in a slow cooker on low, or 3 to 4 hours on high.

For more specific help, find an official slow-cooker recipe that seems close to the one you want to convert, and take your cues from that. There might be one in the booklet that came with the cooker.

In her book "300 Slow Cooker Favorites," Donna-Marie Pye has a recipe for Coconut Curry Chicken that might be similar to yours. The main ingredients are 12 chicken thighs, 1 tablespoon curry powder, a 19-ounce can of chickpeas and about 2 1/2 cups liquid (in this case chicken broth and coconut milk). Cooking time is 5 to 7 hours on low. Maybe those proportions will be helpful.

Once you grasp a few basic guidelines, you should be able to tailor lots of recipes to your slow cooker. A good thing to know, now that we're coming up on the time of year when stews, soups and casseroles become more-welcome fare.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  | September 29, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags:  Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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